It's always been her defence. She was born this way. Born as an egg flanked by male strippers. A raw piece of meat. A fusion of Cher, Madonna and Bowie, born in a lowly nightclub. Who knows? Lady Gaga is a fan of the masquerade for a reason.

This is her third long-player, released two years after The Fame Monster, the sequel to her 2008 break-through The Fame.

Some expected it to reveal a little more about the mysterious 25-year-old Stefani Germanotta from NYC. But despite the autobiographical connotations of its title, and of some of the more self-reflective songs, she remains somewhat wrapped in a shroud of mystery. Is she a sacrificial lamb, a feminist, a cultural ambassador for the world, or is she just the Lady of the Dance?

Whatever the motivation for Born This Way (global market domination, presumably) Gaga ensures not one box is left unticked.

There's one for the likes of Will Smith's kids' school disco (Hair), several (say, 17 plus all the remixes) for the hero parade, one for the Latinos (Americano, a matcher for Alejandro), one for the fans of sinister Germanic oonst (Sheise), a few for the lads, or leather-wearing members of the audience and one for fans of Taylor Swift (country road version of Born This Way).

And the album comes with a bonus disc of remixes just to ensure her as a permanent dancefloor fixture until the next offering.

The first hint of change, or evolution of sorts, comes in the opening bars of warm-up track Marry The Night. Despite the producer's heavy palpitations kicking in at the one minute mark, her vocals are clean, warm and (mostly) untempered. Though somewhat sterile, the track introduces the hyperactive shifts from punch-in-the-guts bass to tickles of trance and plastic electro-rock. It sets the tone for the album - a Bowie-like chameleon that screams Just Dance.

Yes, the second song Born This Way, the single that magpies Madonna's Express Yourself, is very derivative. Same pep talk, similar chords, same uplifting, girl-power theme ("there's nothing wrong with loving who you are/hold your head up and you'll go far"), same tempo. It seems at odds with the Lady's desire to be unique and lacks the cheek and somewhat sordid nature of songs that usually carry the Gaga stamp. More fluoro aerobics class than writhe around in leathers during an arena show, if you like.

A more likely replacement for Poker Face is the raw and heaving Judas, or Highway Unicorn [Road to Love]. The latter actually borrows the same melody.

Meanwhile the outrageously dirty, meaty, club track Government Hooker lends itself to Telephone or Paparazzi-like scandal with the lyrics "put your hands on me/ John F. Kennedy/ I'll make you squeal baby/ as long as you pay me".

Yes, Gaga is at her gutsiest when she is wicked. But with the Glee-inspired, playground-friendly Hair, and a finale of mediocre tunes - all that could have been released the same year as she was born - Born This Way ends up sounding less remarkable than all that persona behind it.

Stars: 3.5/5
Verdict: An immaculate conception

- TimeOut